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One labor union has sued another for allegedly trying to break its exclusive right to organize workers in California’s fast-growing tribal gambling industry. Unite Here claims in a federal lawsuit that the Communications Workers of America violated an AFL-CIO mandate restricting other unions from pursuing casino workers in the state. “There’s no rational explanation for this behavior,” said John Wilhelm, president of Unite Here’s hospitality division. “That’s why the AFL-CIO has these rules, so that workers don’t get impeded with competing unions.” The breach of contract lawsuit filed April 27 in Washington comes at a time when tribal casinos have been experiencing tremendous growth. Unite Here claims the AFL-CIO gave it exclusive rights over organizing at tribal casinos in January 2000 but that early last year the CWA sought access to workers at the Pala Band of Mission Indians’ casino in San Diego County. Unite Here officials also claim a regional CWA official informed them last month that the union intended to organize workers at the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ casino in Riverside County. Unite Here represents about 950,000 active and retired hospitality and textile workers, including 3,500 workers at four casinos. CWA spokeswoman Candice Johnson declined to comment on specific claims in the lawsuit, saying only that the 700,000 workers covered by the union includes workers at two casinos operated by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians. Johnson said the union began representing those workers before Unite Here was granted jurisdiction by the labor federation. Wilhelm said Unite Here only disputes the union’s recent drives and not its representation of employees at those two casinos. According to a March report by the state Employment Development Department, the 50,000 people who work at tribal casinos and administrations — most of them at casinos — represents a 14 percent increase from the same month last year. That number is expected to double in the next decade, the report said. A court hearing on the lawsuit has not been scheduled. An AFL-CIO panel is scheduled to hear the matter May 20 in Washington. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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